Kurdish demonstrators stage sit-in on London street
Protests rock key European cities
February 16, 1999
LONDON (CNN) -- About 3,000 Kurdish demonstrators blocked traffic outside the Greek Embassy in London Tuesday, protesting the arrest of Kurdish activist Abdullah Ocalan.
Meanwhile, about 100 protesters occupied the building. Earlier in the day, they threatened to set themselves on fire to support him.
Ocalan, wanted on terrorism charges in Turkey, reportedly was handed over to Kenyan authorities Monday after seeking refuge at the Greek Embassy in Nairobi. Kenyan police then handed the Kurdish leader over to Turkish authorities.
Ocalan heads the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a 15-year war for autonomy from Turkey.
The London protesters sat down on Holland Park Avenue, a major thoroughfare, late Tuesday afternoon, waving Kurdish flags and chanting. Adding to the traffic troubles: London's underground subway was shut down.
British riot police in padded uniforms cordoned off the area, but were staying clear of the relatively peaceful crowd.
Angry Kurdish protesters took hostages and set fires across Europe Tuesday, storming embassies and consulates from London to Moscow.
The demonstrators burst into the Greek and Kenyan embassies early Tuesday in Vienna, Austria, and took five hostages at the Greek mission, including the ambassador.
Kurds at the Kenyan Embassy threatened to set it on fire if their demands for talks weren't met.
At the Greek Embassy, Ambassador Ioannis Yennimatas and his wife were reportedly unhurt, and were in telephone contact with visiting Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos and Austrian President Thomas Klestil.
In Washington, the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton called on the Kurds to release their hostages and lay down their arms.
'It is purely a political affair'
At The Hague, about 150 Kurds entered the Greek ambassador's residence and took three hostages, including the ambassador's wife and 8-year-old son. The ambassador was not home at the time. Police stopped a separate group of about 100 Kurds trying to reach the residence, arresting many of the demonstrators.
In London, protesters took over the Greek Embassy and threatened to burn themselves to death. They demanded Ocalan's release and blamed Western governments for the plight of Turkey's Kurdish minority. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the embassy.
Russian police arrested 49 protesters who occupied the Greek embassy for 2 1/2 hours Tuesday. Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov condemned the takeover, but police officials said the detainees were likely to be freed without facing charges.
"It is purely a political affair," a police spokesman said.
Protests erupted throughout Switzerland. In Geneva, 30 to 40 protesters occupied the main United Nations building, and in Zurich and Berne, demonstrators occupied Greek diplomatic buildings.
In France, several people were injured when police in Strasbourg forced about 30 demonstrators out of the Greek consulate. Another 20 Kurds were arrested in Paris trying to enter the Greek Embassy.
Kurdish rebel leader snatched in clandestine operation
Kurdistan Workers Party Information
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